By Erin Laytham Lentz
“To market, to market to buy a fat pig, home again, home again jiggity jig. To market, to market to buy a plum bun, home again, home again market is done,” The well-known nursery rhyme captures the simplicity and long-lived tradition of the farmer’s market. The modern farmers market has evolved into an experience that is a treat for the senses. It is a weekly hullabaloo that brings the farmers and the community together through food, art and music while supporting the environment and local economy. From big cities to sleepy, coastal towns awaits some of the most celebrated farmers markets to be discovered. Whether you are hungry and drop in for lunch or dinner, are grocery shopping or merely browsing you will have a memorable time.
There are countless reasons to visit a local farmer’s market but I have listed ten:
- The freshest and tastiest locally-sourced produce line the streets. Speak directly to the farmer about the fresh local seasonal vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat and seafood. They are eager to discuss the textures and flavors of their harvest while offering preparation and cooking tips.
- Dinner is served. Hand selecting the ingredients for your dinner at an open-air market is an indescribable feeling. From selections of fresh gourmet breads, flavored hand-made pastas, olives, soups, spices, oils, spreads and jellies. It is a hostess’ dream to effortlessly snatch up and create a farm to table menu for family or guests. Fresh flowers will complete the hostess to-do list.
- Unique art and crafts. Browse beautiful and unique arts and wares crafted by local artisans; There is no comparing a one- of- a kind gift purchased directly from its creator. Learn about the artists and interact while exploring their specialty items and finding that perfect something to take home.
- Smells and tastes. Foodies will delight in the smells and tastes of a farmer’s market. Your nose will direct you to stands offering prepared regional foods and many samples along the way. Come hungry, it is a myriad of food choices, ranging from gumbo, brick oven pizza, Asian rolls, gourmet jerky, pulled chicken, shrimp ‘n grits, oysters, okra and more! A culinary dream.
- Sights and Sounds. While your nose may be leading you through the market, the other senses are keenly aware of all the sights and sounds including the sunlit skies, friendly faces, happy pets, families, live music and fresh-squeezed lemonade. It is almost impossible to not have some good old-fashioned fun.
- Sweets lovers will bask in the variety of mouth-watering treats. You will find fragrant artisan breads and specialty items such as honey, chocolate, cookies, pies, ice cream, kettle corn and other baked goods lovingly made from scratch. There are plenty of local ground coffee and tea products to pair.
- Organic and healthy options. Naturalists will find their organic produce and health products. Farmer’s Markets deliver locally grown, recently picked produce that is often organic and/or pesticide free. The best part is it costs less than the chain grocery stores. Heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, kale, potatoes, beets, brussel sprouts, melons, berries, butter beans, broccoli and cucumbers.
- The place to shop local. There is no better way to show undying support to the local economy by purchasing directly from local merchants. Enjoy special programs, cooking demonstrations and other displays of artists at work as you shop.
- Strolling an outdoor market on a beautiful day. The markets bring people ranging from a few days to 100 years old… The energy of the locals and visitors strolling the streets and connecting with the community is contagious. It is a wonderful way to meet-up with friends or enjoy the small town pleasure of shopping an open air market. Children and dog-friendly markets are pleasurable for all.
- Save money. Unlike grocery stores, the farmers markets offer what is in season at the moment. The fresh, quality products cannot be rivaled. The vendors are often willing to throw in some extra produce, negotiate prices or offer discounts for grouped items.
In the Lowcountry, market lovers will want to visit the several vibrant, regional farmers markets that lie within a short drive from Hilton Head Island. If you’ve just arrived on the island, start with The Farmers Market at Sea Pines Center, a community event bringing farm fresh food and local vendors to residents and visitors on Tuesdays from March 31-December 29th. Presented by Lowcountry Produce and offering local eggs and honey, coffee, baked goods, prepared foods, fresh cut flowers, gifts and art.
Just a few miles over the bridge, in the heart of historic Old Town Bluffton on Calhoun St. is the award-winning, Bluffton Farmers Market held Thursdays, 1-6pm. (Winter/summer hours vary). It is a family-friendly market showcasing local growers, vendors, entertainment and community causes. The market is nestled amongst the many shops and restaurants and can be a full-day experience.
The Forsyth Farmers Market in Savannah, GA is open on Saturdays 9am -1pm and is aneasy, 30 mile drive from Hilton Head. Founded in 2009, it is a welcoming place to purchase local food. Shop an assortment of prepared food and organic coffee, farm fresh produce, herbs, honey, meats, cheeses and eggs.
Last but certainly not least, is the popular, Charleston Farmers Market located in the beautiful Marion Square running April 3rd-November 25th, Saturday 8am -2 pm. With 100+ vendors, food concessions, activities and more, it is worth the nearly two-hour drive to experience Charleston’s largest outdoor dining patio. Ranked “Best Outdoor Event” by City Paper’s readers.
Don’t miss out on spending a day with the locals. The nostalgia and ineffable feeling is one that cannot be found in a grocery megastore.
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